Book Review: Rip Tide

Note: Rip Tide, by Kat Falls, is the sequel to Dark Life (read review).

Rip Tide
picks up a couple of months after the end of Dark Life. The main characters, Ty & Gemma travel into the trash gyre (a vortex of Atlantic Ocean trash) to hide some of Ty’s family’s crops. Deep in the trash gyre, Ty & Gemma make a grisly discovery; someone has sealed a township…with people inside! Ty & Gemma try to claim salvage rights to the township, but there is no time to waste because surfs have kidnapped Ty’s parents. Could the kidnapping be related to township? Or is there something more sinister going on with the government? Rip Tide is a race against time to find Ty’s parents while trying to avoid Seaguard officers and outlaws. Will Ty’s parents be found alive?

Expansion of World Building
Falls surpasses expectations on world-building with her Rip Tide. She expands upon the universe she built in Dark Life and brings more aspects of life in the Benthic Territory to life. In Dark Life, Falls focused on Ty and the comparison to life his Topsider friend Gemma knew. While townships were mentioned in Dark LifeRipe Tide brings them to life. These townships are remnants of the first wave of pioneers to tried to live in the ocean. We also find that for some people, like Ty, living in the ocean is a utopia, but we also find that for others, the world is a dystopia.

Expansion of Subplot
In her first novel, Falls uses the theme the government vs its people; however it moves out of the subplot status and into the plot for this second novel. We find that not everyone in the government has its constituents best interests at heart.

Connection Between Novels
Rip Tide is a sequel. For some authors, they have an amazing idea first novel and the subsequent one falls flat because the publisher wanted more but the novel wasn’t meant to be a series. This is not the case with Rip Tide. Both novels feel like they are part of the same universe and the characters are consistent between the two novels.

School Materials
Dark Life and Rip Tide are excellent novels in a cross-curricular unit between science and language arts. If you’re interested in pursuing that, please leave a comment! I’d love to blog about it. Find resources from Kat Falls herself in the links section of her website.

For Further Reading
As of now, Dark Life and Rip Tide are the only books in the series. Kat Falls has another book trilogy, Inhuman, about a post-apocalyptic world where people are losing their humanity.

Book Review: Dark Life

dark lifeI picked up Dark Life by Kat Falls at a Scholastic book fair while substitute teaching last spring.  I was intrigued by the description of the world and thought it would be interesting to read.    I greatly enjoyed it.

The Premise
A catastrophic series of earthquakes led to the ocean level rising so much it swallowed most of the low lands.  In fact, the book mentioned that the Statue of Liberty has collapsed into the ColdSleep Canyon (formerly the Hudson Canyon) and it cannot be found.  The entire East Coast as it is known today is gone.  As a result of a massive loss of dry land, giant “stack cities” were built to house the world’s population.  However, humans just weren’t meant to live in giant skyscrapers in apartments the size of a closet.  The apartments are so small in fact, that parents don’t have their children live with them past the age of six.  Kids grow up in boarding houses and parents come visit on the weekends where they can rent “quality rooms” aka a living room with a kitchenette.  A group of people decided that this just was not the way people were meant to live.  They realized the Earth still had all the same land (and more) than it did before…it just was covered in water.  And so, a territory was formed and pioneers embarked on a new frontier…the ocean floor.

The Plot: A Pioneer Story
Dark Life is your basic pioneer story.  People who are fed up with the current way of life and embarking on a new life in an unknown place.  There are a different set of challenges they face than those who live “topside” (or above the water’s surface), different predators, and they experience a different connection to nature.  One of these challenges is a band of outlaws who are threatening the Benthic Territory.  Dark Life‘s plot centers around this specific threat.

The Subplot: Government
There a subplot that weaves in about government responsibilities, government abuse of power, and citizens standing up for what they believe is right.  I don’t want to spoil this subplot too much, but I wanted to point out the threads of this subplot are intricately woven in as if this were a young adult novel or maybe even an adult novel.  Kat Falls has done a suburb job merging science fiction with history.

The Characters: Ty and Gemma
It comes as no surprise the main characters are teenagers and children (after all, it was published by Scholastic!).  However, Kat Falls purposely chose this age group because Dark Life isn’t just about living in on the ocean floor, it is about the long-term effects.  Ty is the first child to have been born subsea.  He has lived his entire life underwater, only spending a short amount of time above water.  Gemma lived topside and has come subsea to look for her brother.  She comes with rumors of “dark gifts” of the children of the sea.  Dark gifts that seem to have resulted from the immense water pressure.  She clings to the theory of their existence, despite Ty’s instance that the research doctor was a disproven quack.

The World: Benthic Territory
Kat Falls has created an excellent science fiction novel.  She has thought about the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, the food they eat, transportation, long-term effects, and how sustainable the subsea economy is.  These are all key elements to creating an effective science fiction novel.  Recently, my husband and I attended Detcon1, a science fiction convention in Detroit, Michigan.  One of the panels we saw was about this exact topic.  Successful science fiction lies in the coherence of the details.  And Kat Falls does not fall short on detail.

The Sequel: Rip Tide
I just found out when I went to Amazon to grab a book cover image that there is a sequel to Dark Life, titled Rip Tide!  I have added it to my wish list and will review it in the future.

Dark Life is an easy adult read; I read in a couple of hours.  However, for those it is grade-appropriate for, it may take a little longer.  Concepts such as bioluminescence, biosonar, and aqua architecture will take some time to understand.  However, a field trip to an aquarium either before or after this novel (I suggest before to draw students in!) would be excellent.  This novel would also work well in cross-curricular studies of oceanic life in science class.